- Food and Cooking
Using a Butter Crock
Butter Keeper Crock
What is a Butter Crock?
Butter crocks are a clever piece of pottery which has been in use since the middle ages. They have two parts:
1. A lid with a bell-shaped container attached to it which you fill with butter.
2. A bottom crock that you fill with cold water.
When you put the butter in the water, it seals it to keep it fresh. Of course before refrigeration, butter crocks were essential to keep the butter from spoiling
How Does a Butter Crock Work?
When you place the butter bell inside the water-filled crock, it completely seals the butter so that oxygen and bacteria can't get in. The result?
- The butter stays fresh up to a month.
- The butter is soft and spreadable all the time.
- Your butter is always ready for the table in an attractive serving container.
How to Use Butter Keeper
How Do You Take Care of the Butter Keeper Crock?
Caring for the crock is easy and since it is made of porcelain, it is dishwasher safe and should last your lifetime. To keep the butter at its best:
- Change the water every 3 days.
- Refill with cold water.
- Add a little salt to the water to enhance the preservation of the butter.
- Take all the butter out and wash the crock once a month. Refill with fresh butter.
- When you refill the crock, make sure it is dry. Then soften the butter on the counter, but not too much. It should be packed firmly in the crock.
- Make sure you get all the air bubbles out of the butter when you first put it in the crock and as you use it.
- You can put flavored butter, like my Honey Butter (with orange, lemon, cinnamon and pecan variations) in the crock, but they won't last as long. Check for freshness before you use.
- You can't use the butter crock effectively for keeping whipped butter or margarine over a long period, but you could use it to serve those butter or even cream cheese or another dip.
- If you butter falls out of the bell, be sure you pack it in tightly, don't let it sit on the counter too long and use a few ice cubes to keep water cold.
Where Can You Buy Butter Crocks?
Can you buy butter crocks today? Yes. Potters still handcraft butter crocks and you might find one at a craft fair. Moreover, the popularity of those handcrafted items, as well as the revival in gourmet cooking, has led to three manufacturers producing butter keeps of excellent quality:
- La Creuset and L. Tremain produce stoneware butter crocks that have elegant designs in many colors.
- Norpo and Butter Bell manufacture classic styled butter keepers which are inexpensive. Norpo even has one made in marble.
- Handmade Butter Keepers: You can also still find some craft potters selling butter crocks in their shops or at craft fairs. Look for them with the other stoneware.
Butter Keeper in Other Languages
In German it is "Butterdose."
In French it is "Pot a beurne Breton"
In English, it is called: Butter Bell, Butter Keeper, Butter Bowl, Butter Saver, Butter Dish with water, Butter Keeper Crock or French Butter Dish.
Where do Butter Crocks Come from?
Ceramic Butter crocks from Vallouris, France were well known. They may have been invented here.
History of Butter Keepers
The famous French potters in Vallauris, France are given credit for designing and marketing the first ceramic butter crocks. Because they were easier to wash and keep clean than the wooden keepers used previously, porcelain butter keepers quickly became popular.
With refrigeration, butter could be stored safely without special pottery, and so many modern people aren't familiar with butter keepers. However, during the 1970s and 80s, craft potters in the U.S. rediscovered this useful crock and began producing them for their stores and craft fairs. That is how I first saw one at the home of my friend Katie, who showed me how it worked. As soon as I saw it, I wanted one too!
Nowadays, butter crocks are a wonderful way to keep butter soft and spreadable. Everyone knows how unpleasant it is to either have the chunk of cold butter either just sit on your bread in one piece or else make holes in your toast as you try to spread it. Butter keepers are attractive and useful kitchen equipment. They keep your butter ready for the table so you don't have to heat it up before using it or remember to take it out of the refrigerator to sit out a while before the meal.
Butter Crocks as Collectables
Vintage Butter Crocks are now valued collectors items. Americans particularly value these utilitarian crocks because they represent a way of life when families had no refrigeration and needed to keep the butter they made themselves fresh. Owning an antique butter crock is a reminder of the hardships the pioneers encountered.
Which butter crockery is most valued? Of course, older pieces are more highly sought after, as well as ones which are more ornamental. Because Butter Crocks were items used every day, they often have nicks, cracks, or sometimes are missing a lid or have mismatched pieces. Butter crocks with interesting designs or the names of the manufacturer are valued more highly. However, perhaps the most important thing in collecting is to find a piece that you like!
Butter Crock Enhances Meals
Butter Crock is a Connection to the Past
Why buy a butter crock? Not only is it useful, it is a connection to the people of the past and a different way of life. When I got married, my French mother-in-law told me that they always kept their butter in a "Pot a beurene Breton" at her family's country home in Perigueux, France. For my girls, using a butter crock reminds them of their meme, but also is a connection with the American pioneer past of my side of the family. We talked about this when we visited our local history museum and watched butter being churned.
They wanted to make their own butter, so we did using our Home Made Butter Recipe. They loved being able to pack the butter in the crock and we talked about how Laura in Little House on the Prairie had done these sorts of tasks.
Do you have a favorite baked good to eat with butter? Share it in the comments and get our mouths watering!